Smoke or sniff to kill yourself-tobacco contains over 7,000 chemicals, 69 of them cause cancers

By Chris Zumani Zimba and Obeddie Lubasi

  1. Introduction

tobacco-use-causes-cancer.jpgAccording to the World Health Organisation (WHO) tobacco kills up to half or 50% of its users even when correctly comsumed as per instructions1.  Aannually at global level, tobacco kills more than 8 million people as a result of first hand tobacco use as well as second-hand smoke2.

Scientifically, it has been proven that tobacco/cigarettes contains more than 7,000 chemicals. And at least 69 of these chemicals are known to cause cancer3. Thus, these tobacco chemicals are overtly carcinogènes, any substance that can cause or aggravate cancer4.

  1. Some examples of toxic carcinogènic chemicals found in tobacco/cigarettes

 Here are a few of the toxic and harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke or cigarettes and how they affect your health and consequently why they terminate human life:

  1. Nicotine : Nicotine is a colourless, poisonous alkaloid derived from the tobacco plant. It is a powerful drug, which affects the brain and quickly becomes addictive ;
  2. Tar : ‘Tar’ is the term used to describe the toxic chemicals found in cigarettes. It’s a sticky brown substance that forms when tobacco cools and condenses. It collects in the lungs and can cause cancer ;
  3. Carbon monoxide : An odourless, colourless gas that is released from burning tobacco. When it is inhaled it enters the blood stream and interferes with the working of the heart and the blood vessels. Up to 15% of a smoker’s blood can be carrying carbon monoxide instead of oxygen ;
  4. Arsenic : Arsenic-containing pesticides used in tobacco farming occur in small quantities in cigarette smoke. Arsenic is commonly found in rat poison ;
  5. Ammonia : Ammonia is a toxic, colourless gas with a sharp odour. Ammonia compounds are commonly used in cleaning products and fertilisers. Also used to boost the impact of nicotine in manufactured cigarettes ;
  6. Acetone : Fragrant volatile liquid ketone, used as a solvent. Nail polish remover is a solvent, for example ;
  7. Toluene : Toluene is a highly toxic chemical. Industrial uses include rubbers, oils, resins, adhesives, inks, detergents, dyes and explosives ;
  8. Methylamine : Chemical found in tanning lotion ;
  9. Pesticides : A number of pesticides (toxic chemicals used to kill pests, usually insects) are present in cigarette smoke. These pesticides find their way into cigarettes because they’re used on tobacco plants as they are growing ;
  10. Polonium – 210 : Radioactive element – used in nuclear weapons as well as an atomic heat source ;
  11. Methanol : Fuel used in the aviation industry3.
  1. Non smokers, stay away from tobacco products for life

From the few above examples of toxic chemicals found in tobacco/cigarettes, it is very clear that both first and second hand tobacco smokers and sniffers are consuming a product that is directly killing them slowly but sure. Cigarette smoking harms nearly every organ of the body, causes many diseases, and reduces the health of smokers in general5. Hence, if you have not yet started to consume tobacco in whichever, stay away and never

  1. Smokers, it is possible to quit smoking and live an improved health life

It is never too late to quit smoking as any day and time is ripe to start your journey to a smoke-free and healthy life. Quitting smoking lowers your risk for smoking-related diseases and can add years to your life5. The improvements in your mental and physical health will continue to grow. Within 20 minutes of your last cigarette, your body will begin to heal.

Contact: Chris Zumani Zimba or Obeddie Lubasi

Organization: Centre for Advocacy and Research on Tobacco Control in Zambia (CARTOCOZA),

Chrizzima Democracy University (CDU), Chongwe, Zambia

Mobile: +260 966 163 816; +260 973 153 815

Email: or


  1. WHO, (2019:1), “Facts sheet details on tobacco harms”, accessed from Retrieved on 12/10/2019
  2. VeryWellMind, (2019:1), “Harmful Chemicals in cigarettes and cigarette smoke”, accessed from Retrieved on 14/10/2019
  3. CDC, (2019:1), (Health Effects of Cigarette Smoking”, accessed from Retrieved on 16/10/2019
  4. Cancer, (2019:1), “Reduce your health risks and effects of cigarette smoking” , accessed from Retrieved on 12/10/2019
  5. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2014

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